LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Governor’s Office said Monday that moves have been made to ensure staffing needs for pediatric care as RSV, flu, and COVID-19 cases overwhelm pediatric hospitals.
The announcement follows a situation report last week that said the Nevada Hospital Association (NHA) was seeking authority to allow hospitals to exceed licensed capacity limits in neonatal and pediatric care units, and waive licensing requirements for nurses and respiratory care personnel.
Instead, applications will be fast-tracked by the Nevada State Board of Nursing (NSBN).
“Any nurse a facility deems necessary to assist with the current pediatric crisis, will have their application processed immediately by the NSBN,” according to the Governor’s Office.
Last week, NHA noted that “Nevada is one of a handful of states that do not accept nursing licenses from other states. Nevada is not a ‘nurse compact state.’ Because of this, Nevada hospitals cannot respond to seasonal or emergency staffing needs with the speed, flexibility, and ingenuity of most other states and territories.”
The Southern Nevada Health District reported last week that about 1,800 RSV cases had been reported in November — a 200% increase over the same time last year. Extra precautions including face masks helped keep respiratory illnesses lower during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A meeting last week between the Governor’s Office, NHA and other stakeholders resolved the roadblock.
“A temporary license will be issued to those applicants who meet the legal requirements of the law. The immediate processing will allow for nurses to begin caring for patients expeditiously,” according to the Governor’s Office.
RSV cases, in particular, have filled pediatric hospital beds and some pediatric hospitals have had to move older children into adult beds.
The NHA said last week that overall hospital occupancy rates are 71% statewide, and 77% in intensive care units. Pediatric wards and pediatric ICUs were over 100% occupancy.
8 News Now spoke with several medical professionals across the Las Vegas valley regarding the concerns.
Dr. Eileen Shi is a pediatrician at Little Roots Direct Access and said she is pleased that help is on the way.
“I think we need it, like in any case when we saw COVID and a rise in hospitalization,” she said. “When you have something so acute, like these respiratory illnesses taking over and affecting to many kids, it is a very labor-intensive area in the hospital. You are going to need your respiratory therapist and an extra set of ears.”
Other doctors across the valley said the lack of staff, and working nurses are being pulled every which way.
“The problem is that right now a lot of the nurses are occupied in not only pediatrics, but also adult ICUs in adult care because we are seeing not only RSV, but we are seeing COVID and other respiratory illnesses and that’s making our resources on the lower side,” Dr. Vikas Sayal a Las Vegas pulmonologist told 8 News Now.
Lisa Nicholas is an assistant professor at the UNLV School of Nursing and worked in the pediatric care unit for 15 years.
She said while she appreciates that there is attention being given to staffing issues, there needs to be a long-term fix.
“You have to look at what nurses they are trying to expedite,” she stated. “If you are trying to get the state board to expedite new graduate nurses so they can start working that’s not going to be helpful because then you have inexperienced warm bodies, as opposed to experienced helpful nurses that can add to the patient care situation.”